Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan plans to present a strong defense of his staff at a Senate hearing Wednesday while outlining steps to prevent a recurrence of the agency's prostitution scandal in April.
In testimony prepared for the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Sullivan said U.S. intelligence agencies were asked to determine whether “any type of breach in operational security as a result of the incident” occurred, and none was found.
There were about 200 agency personnel in Cartagena, Colombia, preparing security in advance of President Obama’s trip, when a few took prostitutes to their hotel rooms. Nine were found to have been “involved in serious misconduct” and three were cleared of the most serious allegations, Sullivan said.
Sullivan has formed a “Professional Reinforcement Working Group” to review the agency’s standards of conduct and to prepare an action plan to reinforce those standards. It will be led by Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry and Federal Law Enforcement Training Center Director Connie Patrick.
To determine what happened in Cartagena, the agency had interviewed more than 220 individuals by May 4. Sullivan said the incident happened the day before a scheduled April 12 security briefing for the agents.
“Thus, at the time the misconduct occurred,” he added, “none of the individuals involved in misconduct had received any specific protective information, sensitive security documents, firearms, radios or other security-related equipment in their hotel rooms.”
Security was not compromised, he said.
Sullivan also said that “no evidence was found to substantiate” allegations of “similar misconduct” in San Salvador, El Salvador, in March 2011.
In April, the agency enhanced its code of conduct “to ensure that the type of misconduct that occurred in Cartagena, Colombia, is not repeated,” Sullivan said.
According to the director’s statement, the code and new policies say:
● “All laws of the United States shall apply to Secret Service personnel while abroad.” Prostitution is legal in Cartagena.
● “Foreign nationals, excluding hotel staff and official law enforcement counterparts, are prohibited from all Secret Service personnel hotel rooms.”
● “Patronization of non-reputable establishments is prohibited.”
● “Alcohol may only by consumed in moderate amounts while off-duty on a TDY (temporary duty) assignment and alcohol use is prohibited within 10 hours of reporting for duty.”
● “Alcohol may not be consumed at the protectee hotel once the protective visit has begun.”
Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), the panel’s ranking Republican, asked Sullivan about the agency’s code of conduct, and 15 other points, in an April 30 letter.
His statement emphasized that the misconduct “is not representative of our core values or the high standards we demand.” Every day, he said, Secret Service agents “are prepared to lay down their lives to protect others in service to their country.”
Sullivan added: “I would submit to you that the officers, agents and administrative, professional and technical staff of the Secret Service are among the most dedicated, hardest-working, self-sacrificing employees within the federal government.”